The Unforgettable Number 6602
Colonel Achal Sridharan, VSM
6602. The first number in my life that I was honoured with, when I joined 34 National Defence Academy Course in July 1965. The first one, be it a number or anything that one experiences, remains unforgettable. 6602 remains relevant to me even today – more than IC 23482M, my army number!
53 years after setting foot in NDA and 23 years since pre-mature retirement, many incidences have become blurred, some are etched in my memory and some, I do not want to deliberately remember. I know that the number 6602 will go with me, when I leave planet Earth!
1996. I married Chitra on 18 Jun 1976 and we became parents of two daughters – Deepa in Oct 1977 and Divya in July 1984. Both of them did us proud by studying exceptionally well, graduating from LSR, New Delhi and going to Australia and UK respectively for higher studies. They found their mates Ketan and Shivan and, have been blessed with a daughter each – Aayra and Tyra.
I993. I was posted to DSSC Wellington. Deepa was in LSR. Chitra and Divya in Madukkarai in separated family quarters and I was in Wellington. We had built our house in 1992 with a loan from HDFC. Three establishments, loan to repay, took five buses to come home over weekends from Wellington to Madukkarai! I found it difficult to make both ends meet.
With Chitra’s support, decided to hang my uniform and decided to earn some money in the civil street, so that I can fulfill my family commitments. Refused to go for higher Command Course for which I was selected on merit.
1995. Became an ex-serviceman at 47 years of age with Rs 3 lacs as my life’s saving, a pension of about Rs 3800 per month. And, lot of self-confidence to face life on the civil street and more importantly, aiming to succeed. Became an entrepreneur!
From real estate development in 1995, about which I knew nothing but learnt the ropes the hard way, commenced with loss in my first project! Somehow salvaged some money to start my own company in 2001. My Team Covai and I experimented with the concept of retirement community in 2004. Timing was correct for the idea to be accepted. We created a number of such retirement communities including Brand Serene. In 2012 Team Covai and I were in Cloud Nine.
2013. I was made to realize that nothing is permanent in life! I fell sick and was stabbed by a Director, whom I brought in to keep pace with the expansion of my Company. I lost Brand Serene. My family was settled but I lost two of my companies. I did not accept defeat. Stood up, fought my Diabetes and re-started with skeleton staff in my house! In 2014, we moved to rented premises.
We realized that success is never permanent. With innovation, I learnt one could succeed again and again. My young team was my strength. We created new models in the retirement community spectrum, got involved in elderly care, which became relevant with longevity and access to better health care.
2018. From vanilla retirement communities, we have entered into uncharted territories like Assisted, Memory, Palliative, Persons with Disabilities and PolyCare. We created Day Care. Our models were such that each one can be replicated. From Covai we became CovaiCare and moved into our own CovaiCare Tower, and, set up offices in Bengaluru and Pune.
When I look back, I have come a long way in my life – from uniform to becoming an entrepreneur. My wife and family have been my support along with a few well-wishers.
I plan to hand over the reigns of CovaiCare in 2019 and become a Mentor and assist to strengthen CovaiCare as the brand in elder care!
Yes, 6602 desires to be remembered with the legacy in elderly living and care segment. Hopefully!